The Audio Opportunity

Updated: December 29, 2012

In spite of the fact that many of us in the ministry are avid readers and that our natural habitat is a book store-or in a cozy place behind our Kindle-so many people where we serve do not read. Many do not like to read. Many read poorly and are embarrassed about it. A few cannot read. They are not going to read. In the equation of our evangelistic / church planting strategies, this is a given. Our society has a growing portion of its members who are post-literate.

Orville Boyd Jenkins has discussed this trend; he says:

North America Now Represents a Post-Literate Society

“We are in a period of history and technology where much of the world’s population, perhaps a majority, are still in the pre-literate oral communication era, while the west, and particularly the US and Canada, are in the post-literate information age. In the post-literate world, learners have a base of literacy, but their primary means of learning have shifted back to oral and aural media (if in fact they were ever fully indoctrinated into literate forms of learning), but the media are new.”

In Our Post-Literate Society, Reading is the Means for Using Electronic Media
“…The current western generation learns and processes in terms of media… In this post-literate society, writing and reading are still of value, but only as they facilitate manipulation for the other media.”

Post-Literate People Learn in the Styles of Oral Learners
“…The post-literate tends to favor an oral-aural learning style, which complements this visual event literacy.” (1)

Over 90% of all evangelistic resources involve highly literate methods. Yet…

  • As of 2002, 58% of U.S. adults never read another book after high school.
  • 42% of U.S. university graduates never read another book.
  • Adults in U.S. spend 4 hours a day watching TV, 3 hours listening to radio, and only 14 minutes reading.
  • According to the NEA, in 2002, less than 1/3 of 13-year-olds read for pleasure every day, a 14% decline from 20 years before, in 1982. (2)
  • The percentage of 17-year-old non-readers doubled in that same twenty-year span.
  • In 2002, Americans between the ages of 15 and 24, spent 2 hours a day watching television, but only 7 minutes a day reading, according to this study.
  • The higher the education level, the higher the reading rate, but reading in every group declined over the twenty year period from 1982 to 2002. (3)
  • 14% of adults are functionally illiterate. “Functionally Illiterate” means that, while some people can read and write some, their “reading and writing skills are inadequate ‘to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level.’ …A functionally illiterate person may well understand these [basic] words and more, but might be incapable of reading and comprehending job advertisements, pastdue notices, newspaper articles, banking paperwork, complex signs and posters, and so on.” (4)

Update: I just found on ZDNet an article on e-books that cites an article by Pew Research (http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/04/04/the-rise-of-e-reading/) which describes ” significant increases in ownership of e-book reading devices and tablet computers” and says, “30% of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading.”   Further, “Some 78% of those ages 16 and older say they read a book in the past 12 months.”  That’s the people group I am talking about… the 22% — one in five Americans! And remember, too, many of the “readers” are reading romance novels or the equivalent. That population segment is not  into non-fiction nor engaged in linear thinking. Naturally, as the article points out, one has to consider the demographic of the people in the place he serves in regard to reading:

“Overall, those who reported reading the most books in the past year include: women compared with men; whites compared with minorities; well-educated Americans compared with less-educated Americans; and those age 65 and older compared with younger age groups.”

Two types of opportunities present themselves: evangelistic and disciple-making. Testimonies would fit this format and be very powerful.  How often we could provide our members with CDs or flash drives to place in the hands of their friends with the follow-up, “After you listen to this, tell me what you think about it.” For example, my wife found a CD at the LifeWay Store called, The Invitation. At only $1 each, we could easily purchase one for every family in the subdivision and were able to give one to each neighbor, along with seasonal plates and cups, for Christmas.

A Wide Array of Audio Resources is Possible:

  • Bible Stories for Children: Kevin Ezell tells me NAMB has an agreement with Rick & Bubba to record Bible Stories for children in the near future; this will be great! Even the parents will listen. When available, our church will buy them and distribute to every child who attends a our fall festival event.
  • Scripture Songs for Children
  • Testimonies: All Kinds of Testimonies to Reach All Kinds of People
  • Radio Spots for Church Advertizing Campaigns
  • Redneck Apologetics: While most of us will never have any interaction with a Richard Dawkins type, we can reach Joe the Plumber. Most secularists are not intellectualls, just secular.
  • Evangelism “Tackle Box” for All of the Above
  • Disciple-making Audio Resources

Means of Distribution Could Include:

  • CDs (with information on label about where to find more on ITunes, etc.)
  • ITunes, Amazon, etc.
  • Smart phone Apps
  • QR Codes
  • Re-Tweeting by design
  • Facebook links
  • Forward-Ready E-mails
  • Radio spots

Our members often just need something put in their hands to give to their friends.  People who do not like to read or who are not good at reading need something more accessible. We need creative churches, state conventions, and mission boards to take the lead in producing these resources at prices affordable for mass distribution.

(1) Selected Quotes from “Orality and the Post-Literate West” by Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins, my own headings added, http://orvillejenkins.com/orality/postliterate.html

(2) http://voices.yahoo.com/is-reading-america-dying-pursuit-1046895.html

(3) http://www.nea.gov/research/ReadingAtRisk.pdf

(4) Functionally Illiterate, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functionally_illiterate

(5) http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-15.pdf

(5) State and County Estimates of Low Literacy, http://nces.ed.gov/NAAL/estimates/StateEstimates.aspx

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